County Profile: Monroe County

Posted on Dec 28 2018 in Features

Electric Consumer presents a new page feature for January 2019: County of the Month. Each month, we’ll focus on one of Indiana’s 92 counties, providing some basic data along with a brief story about places or events or people that make the county unique.

As a gateway to Southern Indiana’s beautiful and rustic uplands and home to Indiana University’s main campus, Monroe County offers a wide range of recreational and cultural activities.

The glaciers from the last Ice Age that scoured the northern two-thirds of Indiana flat stopped at the county’s doorstep. Left behind were a spine of tree-covered rolling hills and hollows all the way south to the Ohio River.

The hill country just south of Bloomington is where the Hoosier National Forest begins and outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Beside the northern edge of the national forest, Monroe Lake is the largest body of water in the state and provides recreational boating, skiing and fishing opportunities.

Monroe Lake was also the site of the reintroduction of the bald eagle in Indiana by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources back in the 1980s. Since then, a population of “native” Hoosier bald eagles has been sustained at Monroe and other Indiana reservoirs, lakes and rivers. And, since Indiana’s fickle winter weather rarely freezes Monroe Lake over, the open water entices a bevy of bald eagles from the north to join the resident eagles for some inspiring winter bird watching for folks on shore.

In winter, the population of bald eagles at Monroe can double or triple, noted Jill Vance, the lake’s interpretive naturalist with the DNR. “One of the main reasons we do eagle events during the winter is indeed the addition of the birds that travel to us from northern areas,” she said. (See below for this year’s event.)

Back up the newly-completed Interstate 69 extension from the lake is Bloomington, Monroe County’s seat. Bloomington is, of course, most noted for IU’s sprawling, beautiful campus of limestone buildings and trees. Indiana’s renowned “limestone belt,” which runs from Bloomington south to Bedford, has produced the stone facades for such famous buildings as the Empire State Building and numerous buildings in Washington, D.C.

While some counties hibernate through winter, Monroe remains active: offering IU basketball to heat things up on the inside, and bald eagle watching outdoors.

County facts

Founded:  1818

Named for:  James Monroe — fifth president of the United States

Population: 146,986

County seat:  Bloomington